Saturday, March 9, 2013

Like Bibi, Obama May Just Want to Manage Middle East Conflict. By Jonathan S. Tobin.

Like Bibi, Obama May Just Want to Manage Middle East Conflict. By Jonathan S. Tobin. Commentary, March 8, 2013.


The consensus about the meeting is that, as one person who quoted the president to JTA said, there would be no “grandiose” plans for peace presented to the Israelis when he arrives for his long-awaited visit. Though the president will be holding out hope that the current “bleak” prospects for peace will improve, the notion that Obama would risk any of his scarce political capital by trying to impose terms of a peace plan on Israel that the Palestinians are not interested in is absurd. Though Obama will put himself on record as opposing Israeli settlements as well as Palestinian attempts to avoid negotiations via the United Nations, he appears to be only interested in keeping the situation calm. After four years of antagonism with the government of Benjamin Netanyahu, the president seems to have arrived at a similar conclusion as his Israeli counterpart. At least for now, he’s done trying to solve the conflict and only wants to manage it as well as possible.

That probably comes as a surprise as well as a shock to many of Obama’s most ardent Jewish supporters who would like him to ratchet up the pressure on Netanyahu, as well as to his greatest critics who harbor the suspicion that his goal is bring the Jewish state to its knees. It may be that were circumstances different, the president might well come closer to making those hopes and fears come true. But right now, Obama has higher priorities than pursuing his feud with Netanyahu.

That won’t preclude the president from trying to arrange a grand gesture, such as a summit at which Jordan’s King Abdullah and Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas will join Obama and Netanyahu for a photo op. But even those observers, like myself, who don’t trust Obama, need to give him credit for having paid some attention to what the Palestinians have failed to do over the last four years. The Palestinians have made it clear that they have no intention of signing a peace agreement that would recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders would be drawn. That means a solution to the conflict is impossible in the foreseeable future and that the only logical approach to it is one that seeks to manage it while preventing conflagrations.

Why We Give Foreign Aid to Egypt. By Charles Krauthammer.

Why we give foreign aid. By Charles Krauthammer. Washington Post, March 7, 2013.

Kerry’s failed mission in Cairo. By Zvi Mazel. Jerusalem Post, March 9, 2013.

More on Morsi and Egypt here.


Sequestration is not the best time to be doling out foreign aid, surely the most unpopular item in the federal budget. Especially when the recipient is President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt.

Morsi is intent on getting the release of Omar Abdel-Rahman (the Blind Sheik), serving a life sentence for masterminding the 1993 World Trade Center attack that killed six and wounded more than a thousand. Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood is openly anti-Christian, anti-Semitic and otherwise prolifically intolerant. Just three years ago, Morsi called on Egyptians to nurse their children and grandchildren on hatred for Jews, whom he has called “the descendants of apes and pigs.”

Not exactly Albert Schweitzer. Or even Anwar Sadat. Which left a bad taste when Secretary of State John Kerry, traveling to Cairo, handed Morsi a cool $250 million. (A tenth of which would cover about 25 years of White House tours, no longer affordable under sequestration. Says the administration.)

Nonetheless, we should not cut off aid to Egypt. It’s not that we must blindly support unfriendly regimes. It is perfectly reasonable to cut off aid to governments that are intrinsically hostile and beyond our influence. Subsidizing enemies is merely stupid.

But Egypt is not an enemy, certainly not yet. It may no longer be our strongest Arab ally, but it is still in play. The Brotherhood aims to establish an Islamist dictatorship. Yet it remains a considerable distance from having done so.

Precisely why we should remain engaged. And engagement means using our economic leverage.

Morsi has significant opposition. Six weeks ago, powerful anti-Brotherhood demonstrations broke out in major cities and have continued sporadically ever since. Thepresidential election that Morsi won was decided quite narrowly — three points, despite the Brotherhood’s advantage of superior organization and a history of social service.

Moreover, having forever been in opposition, on election day the Islamists escaped any blame for the state of the country. Now in power, they begin to bear responsibility for Egypt’s miserable conditions — a collapsing economy, rising crime, social instability. Their aura is already dissipating.

There is nothing inevitable about Brotherhood rule. The problem is that the secular democratic parties are fractured, disorganized and lacking in leadership. And are repressed by the increasingly authoritarian Morsi.

His partisans have attacked demonstrators in Cairo. His security forces killed morethan 40 in Port Said. He’s been harassing journalists, suppressing freedom of speech, infiltrating the military and trying to subjugate the courts. He’s already rammed through an Islamist constitution. He is now trying to tilt, even rig, parliamentary elections to the point that the opposition called for a boycott and an administrative court has just declared a suspension of the vote.

Any foreign aid we give Egypt should be contingent upon a reversal of this repression and a granting of space to secular, democratic, pro-Western elements.

That’s where Kerry committed his mistake. Not in trying to use dollar diplomacy to leverage Egyptian behavior, but by exercising that leverage almost exclusively for economic, rather than political, reform.

Kerry’s major objective was getting Morsi to apply for a $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund. Considering that some of this $4.8billion ultimately comes from us, there’s a certain comic circularity to this demand. What kind of concession is it when a foreign government is coerced into ... taking yet more of our money?

We have no particular stake in Egypt’s economy. Our stake is in its politics. Yes, we would like to see a strong economy. But in a country ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood?

Our interest is in a non-Islamist, nonrepressive, nonsectarian Egypt, ruled as democratically as possible. Why should we want a vibrant economy that maintains the Brotherhood in power? Our concern is Egypt’s policies, foreign and domestic.

If we’re going to give foreign aid, it should be for political concessions — on unfettered speech, on an opposition free of repression, on alterations to the Islamist constitution, on open and fair elections.

We give foreign aid for two reasons: (a) to support allies who share our values and our interests, and (b) to extract from less-than-friendly regimes concessions that either bring their policies more in line with ours or strengthen competing actors more favorably inclined toward American objectives.

That’s the point of foreign aid. It’s particularly important in countries like Egypt, whose fate is in the balance. But it will only work if we remain clear-eyed about why we give all that money in the first place.


Egypt is perilously close to chaos. There are riots and mass protests against the regime of the Muslim Brothers, calls for an end to their rule and for Morsi to resign.

Suddenly it seems as if the people want the army to take over. In several cities there have been attempts through legal procedures to appoint the minister of defense, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, to take over temporarily.

Dozens have died and thousands have been wounded in confrontations between protesters and security forces. The people who take to the streets are mostly good Muslims who do not want to be ruled by the Shari’a, and have lost confidence in Morsi.

Bands of extremist militants, among them members of the so-called “Black block” preach civil disobedience; it started in Port Said and has spread to other cities along the Suez canal as well as elsewhere in the country. Police buildings are routinely attacked and even put to the torch; workers go on strike; there are popular roadblocks on some of the major roads.

Strangely enough, Morsi does not appear to be worried and keeps on saying that Egypt is doing well and everything will be fine. At the same time he is feverishly appointing his men to every public office – be it local or national – in a concerted effort to concentrate all powers in the Brotherhood.

Was the secretary of state aware of the true state of affairs in the country? Was he informed that what is happening is a fight to the last for the nature of post-revolutionary Egypt? The choice is stark. Going forward to democracy and development, or going backward into a radical Islamic regime. By insisting that the opposition accept the rules of the game set down by Morsi and take part in the electoral process Kerry has angered large segments of the population.

Americans are blamed for having bolstered Mubarak’s dictatorship for so long and now trying to do the same with Morsi. More and more editorials call for the Americans to get out of Egypt with their money and to stop interfering.

Strangely enough Morsi himself does not appear ready to listen to Washington’s entreaties. And so more and more people on Capitol Hill and in the US media are now openly calling for an end to all help to such a dubious ally.

The White House could be checking its options. To keep on helping the Brotherhood impose radical Islam on Egypt, or to give a helping hand to those who are trying to put the country on the path of democracy? For the time being, it appears that America is being reviled by both sides.

Arab Revolutons Have Made Women Worse Off. By Moha Ennaji.

Arab revolutions have made women worse off. By Moha Ennaji. The Daily Star (Lebanon), March 6, 2013.

Netanyahu’s Violent Fingerprint. By Gideon Levy.

Netanyahu’s violent fingerprint. By Gideon Levy. Haaretz, March 7, 2013. Also find it here.


Benjamin Netanyahu’s children attacked an Arab cleaning man on the seaside promenade in Tel Aviv and caused him serious injuries. They attacked an Arab waiter in a Tel Aviv restaurant with chairs and their fists. They attacked an Arab from Upper Nazareth at the shore of Lake Kinneret because they heard him speaking Arabic. Netanyahu’s children waved hate-filled signs against Muslim players of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team and set fire to its clubhouse. Netanyahu’s children attacked an Arab woman on a Jerusalem light rail train just because she was an Arab.

All these events took place in Israel within a few days. The attackers were of course not the prime minister’s biological children, but they all were the creation of his spirit, students of his views and pupils of his government’s policies. These Israeli skinheads are the fruits of the nationalistic and racist atmosphere that has grown greatly in recent years, the Netanyahu years.

Such a streak of anti-Arab violence is not just a coincidence of course. So many of these kind of violent acts in such a short time never happened here before. Their source is planted deep within the Israeli experience that Likud-led governments have acted to nurture. A Jewish child grows up in Israel with the feeling he is a member of the chosen people, one who is allowed to do almost anything. He learns that only his people have rights to this land. This child knows his country must be Jewish, and only Jewish.

During the Netanyahu years the child grew up with a feeling of continual danger, usually exaggerated and hollow. He hears all day long of the dangers lying in wait for him, all at the hands of Arabs and Muslims. He learns he is the member of a people who are always the greatest victims, there are no other victims. There are those who repeat for him that the Arabs are not people like he is, it is doubtful whether they are human beings at all; just suspicious objects, terrorists. They all want to throw him into the sea, stab him, plant a bomb, shoot a Qassam rocket at him or blow themselves up next to him. The child learns that Israel’s Arab citizens are a cancer, a stab in the back of the nation and a fifth column; and it is necessary to strip them of all their remnants of rights. He learns that Israel “gives” the Arabs too much.

He sees alongside the road a fancy house in an Arab village and tells himself: Look at that. He hears Arab members of Knesset and tells himself: Look at us, what a democracy. He sees a veiled woman or hears someone speaking Arabic and knows this means danger. He doesn’t even think to compare the treatment of Jews in Europe in the 1930s to the treatment of Arabs in Israel. He has never met an Arab Israeli for a real conversation, and there is absolutely no chance of that with a Palestinian from the territories.

This child knows nothing about the Nakba, except that it is an invention of Israel-haters and the very mention of it is treason. Of the hundreds of villages that were destroyed and the fate of their hundreds of thousands of residents, some of whom still live in Israel, torn away from their families, banished from their lands and villages − he knows nothing at all and wants to know nothing. He has no idea what it means to be an Arab child his age in Israel who hears the prime minister of both of them describe the Arab child as a demographic threat. The Jewish child has never heard a single good word from the prime minister on a fifth of the citizens of his country, only condemnation, threats, exclusion and danger. All this he learned in even more forceful terms in recent years, the latest Likud years.

These children have grown up now and become “youths.” They are the clear disciples of what they were taught, and now they think they must act. To attack an Arab whom they run across, to beat up a cleaner sweeping the streets of their city or to attack a passenger wearing a head scarf. They know that they are allowed to do so since no one will enforce the law against them. They even think they are required to do so. And they are right: That is what they were taught during the cursed Netanyahu years.

Will the Left Finally Get the Tea Party Now? By Joel B. Pollak.

Will the Left Finally Get the Tea Party Now? By Joel B. Pollak. Breitbart, March 7, 2013.


Democrats and journalists like to describe the Tea Party as “hostage-takers,” holding Republican leaders and moderates in their thrall while they try to dismantle the government. But in reality it is the Washington elite that have taken the country hostage, forcing through expansions of government power and spending vast sums of money that the nation will struggle for generations to repay. The Tea Party represents the last chance to escape the zero-sum politics and economic stagnation that has plagued much of Europe for the last several years.

As Paul continued, liberals who once railed angrily against Bush were forced to confront the fecklessness of their own party. Hollywood’s John Cusack asked: “Where are the so-called progressive Democratic senators?” Meanwhile, the supposedly racist Tea Party Senator from Kentucky was leading the charge. It was not a political ploy for votes, or even an attempt to block one of President Obama’s nominees, which Paul acknowledged he would fail to do. It was just a stand on principle—which is what the Tea Party has been about all along.

How Syrian Women Are Fueling the Resistance. By Fotini Christia.

How Syrian Women Are Fueling the Resistance. And Why Washington Should Support Them. By Fotini Christia. Foreign Affairs, March 6, 2013.

End the Arab Boycott of Israel. By Ed Husain.

End the Arab Boycott of Israel. By Ed Husain. New York Times, March 6, 2013.